The Basics of Networking

Networking Is

  • Making connections with people and developing mutually beneficial relationships
  • Asking people for assistance (without feeling like you’re imposing)
  • Gathering and exchanging information, contacts, and experiences
  • Listening

Whether you network to find a new job, develop your current career, explore new career options, or broaden your professional horizons, it is important to focus on networking as an exchange of information, contacts, or experience.  In any industry or career level, networking helps you make connections in a personal way and build relationships of support and respect to discover and create mutual benefits.

Networking Is Important Because It...

  • ŸAllows you to reach your goals more quickly Ÿ
  • Increases your visibility
  • Provides future career opportunities Ÿ
  • Offers an association with people/resources that you can utilize for life

Prepare

  • Develop a list of people who would be willing to assist you: relatives, friends, faculty, alumni, former employers, high school teachers, and other professionals. Provide each of these individuals with a copy of your resume and make them aware of your career goals.
  • Prepare a self introduction that is clear, interesting, and well delivered.  This will allow you to start a conversation confidently and share information about you and your interests. See our Elevator Speech information for tips on crafting this introduction.
  • The latest news, talk radio, or newspaper can provide updates on current events and industry news that will help you connect.
  • Be prepared to network at any given moment.  You can network at a conference, wedding, ball-game or at the bus stop.
  • Identify the goals you want achieve at the networking event before you go (e.g. learn more about a particular field, to develop job/internship leads, etc).

Connect

  • Go where the people are.
  • Don’t wait for networking to happen, make it happen.
  • Be visible. As part of a group, organization, or committee be sure to participate. Contacts need to see your face and hear your message. Continual contact opens up opportunities.
  • Find the best personal fit when seeking out organizations and groups to associate with and contribute to.
  • First impressions last a lifetime so make sure your first impression is appropriate.
  • Always make eye contact when you are speaking to someone. Take the focus off of you, listen more than you talk, and you will be surprised at the results.
  • Don’t forget it is important for you to physically move around when you are at a networking event.

Engage

  • The first 60 seconds of a conversation with a stranger is the hardest, but it will get easier as you learn more about the person, their experience, and interests. Commonalities help “strangers” connect.
  • Break the ice with an open-ended question: Are you…?  Do you...?  Then ask a close-ended question: Who? Where? Which? Then repeat with more open-ended questions. 
  • The people best at networking are the best listeners.  Anyone will speak to you for ten minutes if you are not speaking about yourself.
  • Have quality conversations rather than quantity.  At large functions, be content with a quality conversation with 5-7 people, who will remember you and what you spoke about the next day.
  • Be respectful of time.  Pay special attention for cues from the other person indicating that they are ready to move on.

Review

  • Keep a record after the networking event; make a list of who you’ve spoken with so you don’t forget how and when you met.
  • Say “thank you”.  Show your gratitude for a referral, even if there is no result from the lead.
  • Keep promises. If you offer to “take action”, follow-through with the promise.
  • Be persistent.  Networking is a never ending task.
  •  Keep your “network” informed.  Share good news, success stories, resources, and information with your network.

Reminders

  • Quality over quantity
  • Get to know people personally as well as professionally
  • Take the time to introduce others
  • Shyness can be misinterpreted as indifference
  • Take a break by approaching someone you know
  • Conversation is give and take

Final Thoughts

Each time you meet with someone new, you are a step closer to feeling more confident and believing in your ability to learn and grow from your network.  The best networking is not simply a one-time association, but a continuing connection.  Networking does not stop once the event or meeting is over.  Be sure to follow up with those you’ve met, keep in contact, share information and offer to help in any way you can. A good method of keeping in contact with your network is through social media such as LinkedIn, OnIowa.com, etc.  Please refer to LinkedIn and Social Media page for more information.